Waiting on Apple's new Macs: Four scenarios for my next computer

For nearly a year, David Gewirtz has whined about needing a new computer. Tomorrow, he (and all other Mac users) will know their options. These are the four possible scenarios for what hardware he could wind up buying or building.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Windows users don't have these problems. If a Windows user wants a new machine, there are endless possibilities, including building exactly what's needed. That's not to say Windows is perfect. Sometimes it deletes files to celebrate update day. But otherwise, from gaming to choice to cost to more complete Office 365 applications, Windows is a winner.

And yet, my main machines are Macs. It's about the software. There are some media management products that save me tremendous time.

Final Cut Pro X is the biggest example. It almost never crashes. When I used Premiere Pro it crashed constantly. When it crashed over 100 times while producing a single eight-minute video, I switched to Final Cut and haven't looked back.

Over all, due specifically to the mix of work I produce, I save days' worth of effort every week using apps that only work on Macs. The only problem is that my main iMac, which was a powerhouse in 2013, can't handle the load today, particularly when it comes to multi-cam 4K video editing.

I've been waiting for more than a year to buy a new Mac. If I was running Windows, I just would have bought or built the best machine I needed. No wait would have been required. But because Apple has been reticent to update its Mac models, I - and many others who rely on platform-specific Mac software - have had to wait.

All that changes tomorrow. Tomorrow, we'll know what Apple is going to do about the Mac. Except for the Mac Pro, of course. But I don't see myself buying a Mac Pro. The iMac Pro starts at $5,000, so I'm guessing the Mac Pro will be even more monumentally expensive. Also, I can't wait until 2019 or whenever Apple does something with the Mac Pro. I need a new machine now.

By the time the Apple announcement event is over tomorrow, I will have made my decision. Here are the four scenarios that are in the running.

Option 1: MacBook 2018 with dock and monitor

The 15-inch MacBook Pro 2018, in either the i7 or i9 variety can do what I need. 32GB RAM is now available, which is the minimum RAM footprint I need. It also supports an external GPU and bigger monitor resolutions than my old iMac.

I don't really want another notebook. I'm not thrilled with the cooling management. It's very expensive. And there are no native ports other than USB-C. I really don't like running Ethernet through a dongle.

The new MacBook Pro is a known quantity, and I could live with it. But I don't really want to find a place to stash a notebook on my desk, and I'd be paying for a screen I'll rarely use. Add the price of an ultrawide or super-ultrawide monitor and an external GPU, and this becomes a brutally expensive option.

Option 2: New 2018 iMac

We don't know if a new iMac is coming out, but there's a chance. The only way I'd consider a new iMac now is if the screen was an ultrawide. If I had to buy an iMac and then add an ultrawide screen, I'd wind up having to find a way to manage the iMac's existing screen.

Unfortunately, the iMac is far too heavy for traditional monitor arms, so it's very difficult to place the screen in the exact right position. My current iMac uses the Ergotron heavy-duty MX monitor stand and it's just too limited for comfortable use.

Of course, the iMac would also need to offer at least 32GB of RAM. It would be ideal if the RAM could be upgraded, but I have my doubts that Apple will ever offer upgradeable RAM again. Also, I'd expect the iMac in the configuration I need to be ghastly expensive. The one I bought in 2013 certainly was.

Option 3: New 2018 Mac mini

If configured properly, a new Mac mini would be an ideal choice. I want it to have both USB-A and USB-C ports. It'd be great if it kept the Ethernet port, the HDMI port, and aded Thunderbolt 3 port (USB-C and Thunderbolt look the same, but are not the same interfaces).

Like I said before, I need at least 32GB of RAM, but it'd be great if the new Mac mini took a page from the pre-2014 models and allowed upgradeable memory. It would be nice if it had a powerful GPU, but I'd accept adding an outboard GPU if necessary.

Mac minis have historically been Apple's least expensive Macs. Given that the iMac and MacBook Pro configurations I'm looking at will wind up costing nearly $4,000 or more, a less expensive Mac mini would be a huge win.

Option 4: Build a Hackintosh

I really don't want to go this route, but I'm starting to think that unless a Mac mini is introduced with a price/performance sweet spot, I might have to build my own.

There's no doubt I could build a machine with just about the specs I want, at an actually reasonable cost. I just don't have the time for the futzing. One of the benefits of my Macs has been that they've pretty much always just worked. Once you move into the Hackintosh realm, you take a lot more responsibility for update management. compatibility, and arcane problem solving.

That said, it's a real PC. It's upgradeable in all sorts of ways, so the limitation is really whether the Hackintosh community can keep up with Apple's changes to MacOS.

Which will I choose?

Clearly, I haven't liked the existing choices. In July, I said the 2018 MacBook Pros are workable. But it's not a great fit for my needs and I hate to spend that much money for something that's not a great fit. The Hackintosh has been my fallback option, but it's time-consuming and potentially troublesome.

I've even thought of just giving up and going back to Windows. I run Windows machines, but my workflow just takes so much longer on Windows. The Hackintosh option is almost this approach, since I'd be building a Windows machine that happens to run MacOS.

It's incredibly doubtful that I'd order another iMac. The monolithic all-in-one computer paradigm of the iMac has always been inconvenient. I guess the honest answer is I'm hoping for a reasonably priced, yet powerful enough Mac mini. The Mac mini (of which I have four) has always been the most flexible machine for my needs. It's just never been powerful enough to be my main machine.

Tomorrow, we'll find out if that's going to change.


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